Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by world renowned speaker Shawn Achor, Harvard graduate, founder of the Institute of Positive Research and GoodThinkInc and author of The Happiness Advantage as well as several TED talks on the subject of happiness. I could tell I liked this guy from the moment I started listening to him (even though my friend and I were a little late to the presentation, so I missed the first few things he had to say) because he began his speech by discussing mirror neurons, those little things in our brains that some scientists believe hold the key to understanding empathy in human and animal behavior. Achor began by suggesting an experiment where the observer would go into an airport and stand around a group of people and start to bounce up and down, fidget, or display other types of nervous gestures in an attempt to see if others in the immediate area began performing those activities also. As an empath, I don’t particularly feel like I would enjoy making other people nervous on purpose, but it was a good example of how individuals’ actions and intentions can influence other peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how one can choose to make a positive or negative impact on others in their environment.
We can use positive psychology to improve the moods of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and complete strangers by following some advice Achor gives on how to stop our negative thoughts and actions. My favorite activity that Achor presented was to come up with three “gratitudes” every day: three things that we are thankful for, and write them down. Strangely enough, this is something I do quite frequently anyway, as many of you who follow me on Facebook know. Usually my “gratitudes” are quite silly, and consist of quotes such as, “Today I am thankful that Supernatural was renewed for another season” or “I feel happy that I got two comic books in the mail today”, but hey; that stuff makes me happy and I’ve had people tell me that those things make them laugh, so it’s all good. Really be creative with this one, thought. It’s easy to think day after day: “I’m thankful for my job, family, home, etc.” But I challenge you to be a little more creative. Come up with three new things every day that you are thankful for and write them down. Keep a happiness journal that you can refer back to when you are having a bad day!
Another suggestion Achor had was to take two minutes each day to write down something good that happened to you and describe it in detail, going so far as to documenting what you were wearing, where you were, what you were feeling, who was around, etc. He recommended that you take two minutes each day to think about this positive experience and if I recall correctly, Achor said that after 21 days you will notice a real change in your attitude! It makes it easier to recall the feelings associated with that experience if you really remember all the details. You can even write it down on a napkin and dispose of it; it’s the process of actually writing it down that solidifies the memory in your brain.
But how do we spread the positivity? Easy! Anchor encouraged the audience to tell at least three people per day, something about them that makes us happy. You can do that by text, email, in person, in a letter, on the bank marquee or however else you’d like to get your message across. Right then during the presentation, I took out my phone and texted my 14 year old daughter and said, “Thank you for being such a good girl all the time and being so well behaved.” I’m sure she thought I had completely lost it. However, she was actually much friendlier to me after I sent the text!
Now we all know that exercise helps reduce stress and increases positivity. But sometimes exercise can feel like, well, exercise! Anchor suggested that you take 15 minutes three times per week to do some kind of physical activity, but to NOT think of it as work. Take the dog for a walk, or just go on a short walk and enjoy the nice weather without thinking of it as work. Get out in the garden or the snow (Kris) and just take that time to connect with Mother Earth. By the way, this would be an excellent time to ground! You can also meditate for 15 minutes if you would enjoy that more.
I’ve noticed so much negativity lately, especially on social media sites, and I just think it would be wonderful if for every negative thought we saw, we posted something positive. That would put a whole lot of positivity into the universe!
Happiness is a choice. Choose it!